As National Family Meals Month™ kicks off, it’s likely you’ll see headlines and social posts about the many benefits for kids in eating together as a family, however it’s defined. But what about adults? Are there benefits or disadvantages to sitting down to dinner with loved ones more frequently?
As it turns out, there are both physical and psychological benefits for adults in having more frequent family meals, including the following:
- Lower levels of stress and depressive symptoms. It may seem counterintuitive that a household task that requires time and preparation could lower stress, but mental health is improved with more frequent family meals. In one study, having more frequent family meals was associated with lower levels of depressive symptoms, lower stress index, and greater self-esteem. Taking the time to slow down, step away from screens and devices, and have face-to-face conversations contributes to more positive mental health.
- Less likelihood of weight gain and/or obesity. Even if a home-prepared meal isn’t intentionally healthy, adults who eat with other people more frequently in a home setting are less likely to be obese. For example, this study of 1,800 adults found that for every one additional family meal eaten per week, adults’ body mass index (BMI) decreased by 0.12 BMI units.
- Better nutrition. The one single thing all individuals could do to improve health is to eat more fruits and vegetables, and meal plans in the transform 6 program include at least seven servings a day. Interestingly, those who eat family meals more frequently have a higher consumption of fruits and veggies. In one study, women who reported more frequent family meals ate 3.2 servings of fruit per day compared to 2.5 for those having less frequent family meals.
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